Shale Crescent USA Wants to Rebrand Region

WHEELING — The area has been known by many names — the Upper Ohio Valley, Appalachia, the Rust Belt and Coal Country — in the past, but one organization hopes to rebrand the region in a way that will help it capitalize on its natural gas and other petrochemical reserves.

Greg Kozera wants residents, community leaders and businesses to start using the term “Shale Crescent” when they refer to our area, which is situated atop some of the largest natural gas fields in the world. He presented his ideas Tuesday during a Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce event at Wheeling Jesuit University.

Development and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” of those fields began about a decade ago, and those involved in mineral exploration have since determined that the Marcellus, Utica, Devonian and Rogersville shales lie layered beneath our feet. Those shales all contain rich petrochemical deposits that Kozera said could attract a broad variety of industrial interests to the region.

Kozera is the marketing director for Shale Crescent USA, a nonprofit based in Marietta, Ohio. The group’s primary goal is to attract new, high-paying manufacturing jobs to the area atop those layers of shale, including parts of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

With those jobs, organization members believe, will come an array of development and a higher standard of living for all. They also believe it is important to define and promote the geographic region, so it can better compete with areas such as the Gulf Coast, which have been the traditional locations for petrochemical production and related industries.

In addition to the large reserves of feedstock that are readily available in the Shale Crescent area, Kozera touted the region’s other attributes that would make it appealing to developers. Among those are: the lowest natural gas prices in the developed world; proximity to more than half the United States’ population within a day’s drive; access to water for transportation and industrial processing; a motivated and trained workforce; and a high quality of life.

During his presentation, Kozera showed the audience an image of Tokyo that was filled with skyscrapers and concrete. He had taken the photo while attending an energy conference in Japan earlier this year, and he contrasted that image to his view upon waking Tuesday morning at Oglebay Resort, where trees, rolling hills and wildlife waited right outside his window. He said that natural beauty and the room to live comfortably will attract foreign and domestic companies and workers once the potential of the shale fields is fully realized.

“There are 14 million people in Tokyo,” he said. “They need our energy.”

Kozera also spoke about a recent IHS Markit report that states investing in petrochemical development in the Shale Crescent Region has several advantages over investment in similar ventures along the Gulf Coast. Commissioned by Shale Crescent USA, the report states that ethane, a natural gas liquid that can be used to manufacture plastics, costs 32 percent less in the local region. It also notes that a savings of 23 percent could be achieved when it comes to polyethylene delivery costs, since the supply would be closer to the end users.

Titled “Benefits, Risks, and Estimated Project Cash Flows: Ethylene Project Located in the Shale Crescent USA Versus the US Gulf Coast,” the report concludes that an ethylene project in the Shale Crescent USA region is expected to produce $713 million more in net present value over the life of the project than a similar project on the Gulf Coast. Over a 20-year period, according to Shale Crescent USA, that NVP advantage could equate to a pre-tax profit advantage of some $3.6 billion.

After outlining those facts and figures for the audience, Kozera then talked about what local businesses and residents can do to help ensure petrochemical developers will consider — and choose — the local area for new projects. He suggested the following steps:

  • Maintain a positive business climate;
  • Establish a petrochemical storage hub; 
  • Prepare the workforce; 
  • Keep taxes on the gas and oil industry to a minimum; 
  • Keep our region clean and appealing.

“Your dreams and your belief can make all the difference,” Kozera told attendees. “We can change this state. We can change this region. Anything is possible.”